Sunday, March 7, 2010

Attend a non-kosher seder? Why?

From the ultra-orthodox to the non-observant, Jews across the spectrum complain about keeping Passover. Some say they can make it five days out of a total of eight. Some "keep" it all week but eat out at non-kosher restaurants and ask the kitchen to hold the bread. (Seriously. Please do not do this.) Some keep it seven days and say, "If seven days is good enough for Israel, it's good enough for me."

Stop the kvetch and think for a moment.

The Passover story in Exodus is that the Jews were slaves in Egypt. G-d told Moses to lead His people out of Egypt. Moses told the Pharaoh, "Let my people go," and with the assistance of numerous open miracles, the Jewish slaves escaped from Egypt after nearly three centuries of enslavement. Eventually they made it to what is now modern-day Israel and have been living there ever since.

Whether one believes the story in the Torah or not, one historical fact is unmistakable: at one point in history, there were no Jews. Later, there were Jews, and that hasn't changed.

The Haggadah (seder book companion) points out that in every generation, people attempt to destroy the Jewish people. The Pharaoh who knew not Joseph tried it. In the Purim story, Haman, the Persian leader's viceroy, tried it. Most famously, the leader of the previous German government tried it. Today, President Ahmadinejad of Iran wants to wipe out the Jews. Yet the Jews persevere, and the ancestors of the Jews make it despite the temptation to pretend they are not Jews and to assimilate into the non-Jewish majority.

In honor of the Jews who came before the current generation, I believe it is incumbent upon the Jewish people to give up challah and normal food for eight days.

That means not attending a non-kosher seder. I don't know why people hold non-kosher seders. I've never asked someone, so maybe the reply is, "We don't keep kosher during the rest of the year. What's the point?" Or, "It's just for the family to get together for a festive meal." But the non-kosher festive meal ruins the whole point of the holiday, in my opinion. The Jews came from Egypt, and now American Jews live in a country that allows us to celebrate and worship in the open, in peace. And we thank G-d by placing the chometzdik* butter next to the non-kosher meat, which is covered in chometzdik sauce? And that is appropriate just because of the family at the table?

I don't think it is. To make matters worse, many area synagogues further endorse this practice by hosting their own non-kosher seders. I was very surprised to find this schedule.

Just curious: as I recall, taking communion in a Catholic Church requires eating a wafer and drinking wine. How many Catholic churches substitute candy and diet Coke? Probably none of them. But dozens of synagogues can't be bothered with serving a kosher for Passover seder. They also have a ready excuse--that they are not kosher during the year.

The solution is to avoid seders are not absolutely, positively strictly kosher for Passover. Ask the organizer point-blank if the seder is kosher. If so, participants are entitled to ask who the caterer is or what the source kitchen is, and when it was kaschered (cleaned for Passover), or who the mashgiach is (kosher supervisor). If those questions cannot be answered directly, then it's time to move on to the next seder.

*"Chometz" is Hebrew for bread or any food product containing bread that is not kosher for Passover. "Chometzdik" is a Yiddishized adjective form.


Ken S. said...

T.S. wrote,

"Unless one believes that the Torah is from G-d or at least divine there is no strong reason to have a kosher seder."

Ken S. said...

Then why bother? They can have a family get-together at the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant of their choice any night of the week. No reason to rush home on (this year) Monday night to make the seder.

Ken S. said...

T.S. wrote,

"For the masses to "go Kosher" they would have to change their entire mindset about Judaism."

Ken S. said...

Sounds good to me. And it's about time.

Theodore M. said...

Ken - you took out my best comments.

Also there is a reason to have a seder even if it is not strictly kosher. Who made you Rabbi Ken?

Ken S. said...

I didn't mean to take out your best comments. If you want to put your comments in context, the floor is yours. I merely quoted the comments I most wanted to respond to.

No one made me rabbi. I'm expressing my opinion. No shyla should be inferred, and it was certainly not implied.

I do not think there is a single good reason to hold a non-kosher seder.

Theodore M. said...

I did not try to come across as harsh, just funny I apologize if you did not take it as such.